Longtom on rock-jumps for beginner surfers: “With the ‘democratisation’ of tuberiding at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch the rock-off remains the one thing that cannot be celebrity faked or bought!”

Rocking off is one of the greatest elements of the surfing life and perhaps the only true method that exists of delivering cosmic justice to the VAL hordes.

We missed a trick after the recent footage was released of our VAL pal getting himself involved in a slow motion trainwreck on the north side of Sydney harbour.

It called for a long overdue essay on the rock jump, even if author Chas Smith in a recent Dirty Water podcast (mis) identified it as a mostly Australasian phenomena.

Rocking off is one of the greatest elements of the surfing life and perhaps the only true method that exists of delivering cosmic justice to the VAL hordes.

With the “democratisation” of tuberiding at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch the rock-off remains the one thing that cannot be celebrity faked or bought.

Some first principles can be elucidated.

A war on rocks, like a war on drugs, is unwinnable.

Therefore, efforts to arm yourself against mishaps and accidents are self defeating.

Booties are a particular abomination.

Cuts heals, broken bones knit, shame is a much more persistent affliction.

The rock-off is where the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, at least on a human time scale.

The explosive energy released when wave hits a rock ledge allows for tremendous drama. You can be vertical one second, ten feet in the air the next. Knocked over like a ten pin.

Nothing offers such a visual feast as the sight of human beings getting fucked over on a botched rock jump.

Of course, I don’t take (much) pleasure in seeing people get hurt and for the most part the ocean remains very kind to a botched rock offer.

Missing fins, cuts, maybe a broken bone is the usual size of it.

How does the VAL proceed?

Slowly, then quickly, or not at all. A walk of shame is no shame at all if the mind can’t figure out what to do.

And what the mind has to figure out is how to construct a mental map of reality and then formulate a plan to navigate that map in between waves.

In layman’s terms: pick a path, walk it, then jump.

It’s a dance move, essentially.

Choreographed to the millimetre.

Like every dance you don’t stop till the music stops and the music don’t stop until you’re in the water.

The common VAL mistake is to choke halfway through the dance.

You gotta move and keep moving.

Counter-intuitively, moving forwards, towards the apparent danger, is usually safer. If in doubt, jumping of some description is almost always the best option.

The worst option is freezing or attempting a late flee like a wounded animal.

Don’t do that.

I got caught flat-footed when asked on Dirty Water about botched rock-offs.

My phone was flooded with texts reminding me of epic fails, including one from my cuzzy bro, which I think serves a purpose to share.

We get a certain type of day here in late autumn, deep fall if you like.

Grey, cold with a massive swell from a close range storm. In this case, twelve-to-fifteen-foot at Lennox Point. A rock-off up there with the most heinous.

Three foot of foam covering rocks, walls of whitewater smashing in, six-foot sidewinders, thirty-yard suck-outs, total detonations on dry rock.

Horror show.

You don’t want to look at it because it’s ugly but you have to look to figure it out.

I’d borrowed my Bribie pal’s board, a prized 8’5” Brewer gun he’d dragged back from Hawaii.

He’d loaned it under extreme sufferance.

During the transaction we rolled up and got on the end of one too many. May, as well as being prime time for big surf, is also harvest season and while the local bush bud doesn’t have the knock-out of the hyge it still packs a punch for a lightweight like me.

So, I’m standing on the rocks, greening out. Thinking a little spell in the foetal position under the pandanus might be in order, but walking forwards instead, through foam to rocks I knew were there.

A big drain-out, step, step, hop, hop.

Now a wall of water is coming, step, step (a little slip) then jump. Sailing in the air, over the top of the oncoming wall of whitewater.

The forward momentum stopped.

I’m going backwards at the same speed I went forwards.


I’ve bunjee jumped.

The fucking legrope is caught around a rock.

Now, I’m in the worst place in the world.

Looking up I see my pal. He looks very, very unhappy.

I get hit and smeared across the rocks.

My cuzzy bro is laughing.

I try and sacrifice my arse and hold the board up. I get pushed up the rocks then dragged down. Pushed up again, banged up all over.

Dragged, pushed, rolled. Hit. Hit many times.

And my pal is yelling,“Get the fuck off there!”

Well, I would if I could y’see.

I got a little break, put the feet down, felt that fine hot slice of barnacles through skin and jumped.

Out. No longer greened out. And the strategy had worked. I was bloodied, but the Brewer was intact.

Well, it creased later on when my pal rode it, which he blamed on me, but that was never proven.

Of course, when it comes to surfing rocky coastlines, what goes up must come down.

I think Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Finnegan takes the cake here.

In his memoir Barbarian Days he describes a session at Jardim do Mar in giant surf that goes very, very wrong when he and his pal are forced into a night-time exit from the ocean onto dry land, being smashed by walls of whitewater into a seawall and emerging half dead onto a mossy boat ramp.

Finnegan then details getting his balls memorably busted in the post-surf debrief by an elder Portuguese lady who accuses him of having “no respect for your family and friends… no respect for the generations of fishermen who have risked their lives to feed their families”.

It does sound a bit overwrought and scripted to be true, but even if it’s apocryphal it still tells a story of how rattled Finnegan was, of how he saw himself reflected by the local culture.

Have I persuaded, via this guide, a single VAL to abandon the noble art of rocking off?

Put your hand up, no-one will judge.

Well, that’s good.

And also bad, because it’s the best live entertainment going in this strange Covid time.

Rock-off stories below, pls.

Polemic: The case against good surfers who choose to ride soft topped boards!


Good surfer soft-toppers. You know who they are, we all see them out on pretty decent days with their floaty, flaccid finned barges. I have a little theory on their behavior. I’ve thought a lot about it, and here I’ll call them out.

See if you all think I’m right or wrong on this:

Hey, good surfer soft-topper? You my friend, are a bit of a charlatan.

So, it’s a pretty decent waist to shoulder high day. And you’re a “good surfer”. You could be anywhere in age from teen to 50, in pretty good shape, you generally ride a short pointy nose thruster, and you get your fair share of waves.

Or at least that is what you feel you do.

And, you have done so since, like forever. You can hit the lip. are confident of your place in the lineup, and yes, even kinda rip.

But, yet, there you are my friend… on your Wavestorm™.

You say: “Hey man, I’m just foolin’ around out here, and, it’s super fun!”

But what I hear is the selfish pursuit of your wave-count.

Then you say: “Yeah, it’s kinda crowded out there, someone could get hurt, and these softies are soooo safe!”

But what I hear is your single minded entitlement to be on the one and only good wave of the day.

Look, we all see it, you are riding these things as great big trick on the whole system. Everyone is supposed to go along with it too, as you scoop up all the crumbs on the inside, then zoom out the back and snag set a wave all the while laughing, smiling, spreading your “good vibes” from your big blobby railed made-in-third-world-sweat-shop-mass-produced-piece-of-junk.

And when your sesh is done, you smugly walk away, as if you just shoplifted a Snickers and are so dang proud of yourself for being the rebellious “you”.

Well, like I said, we see right through it.

You know yourself you should be riding something else. With rails. With rocker, and a shape, something that’s got an actual design to it. And maybe a decent color for cripes sake.

In short, a surfboard that looks and feels good.

You make your excuses, but when you say “Yeah man, this StormBoinker, it’s got, like, fin boxes for real fins!”, what I hear instead is the hollowness of your lie.

Calling this out is just part of the equation, so here’s the advice:

If one were to be empathetic, and try and educate, one would try and make you see and feel how much more fun, real fun, you’d have on an actual surfboard. With volume. No one should begrudge you the right to ride a little bit bigger stick. Get an egg or something. You will love it and more importantly you’ll probably look good on it.

And lookin’ good? That’s feeling’ good.

Obituary: Star of Kai Neville era-defining movies Mitch Coleborn splits with Volcom after two decades!

Coleborn, one of the few redheads to cut through the surf industry's inherent, systemic and often brutal racism, retired at thirty-three.

Australian surfer Mitch Coleborn, a staple of Kai Neville’s era-defining films from 2009’s Modern Collective to Cluster in 2015, and whose frontside fin-throws became a staple of every teen, has split from his sponsor of twenty years, Juicy Couture aka Volcom.

In a plantive note to his fifty-one thousand followers, Coleborn, who turned thirty-three in January, and who was barely fourteen when his preternatural talent was discovered by the flying vee, wrote,

Happiest 14 year old kid in the world turned into 20 years of nothing but good times. Forever grateful for all the support and friendships made. Much love, Mitch


Coleborn’s ten-year career on the world qualifying series, 2011 to the abbreviated season of 2020, yielded no wins but three seconds, two thirds and a fifth. His highest rating was in 2015 when he finished twenty-sixth.

(Correction: I got Mitch’s results from the WSL website which didn’t mention his glorious win at the Quiksilver Saquarema Pro, a prime event, in 2013. Thanks to readers for pointing out etc.)

Remember Coleborn, here.

Breakthrough: Great White-proof wetsuit “one step closer to reality!” Human trials to begin soon!

"The incidence of shark bites in Australia has increased from 1–3 per year in the 1980s to more than 10 per year in the 2010s."

It’s gotten real tense, I guess you could say, around those great surf utopias Byron Bay, Santa Cruz and Margaret River.

Getting hit by a Great White shark, a species protected in Australia since 1999 and California since 1994, has moved from the abstract to the very real.

Santa Cruz shaper Ben Kelly, twenty-six, hit and killed by a Great White in May; Gold Coast surfer Rob Pedretti, sixty, hit and killed near Byron Bay in June. 

A pal called a couple of days back and said the site of breaching Whites had become almost as common as the whales that pass the coast every June.

So far, solutions have danced around three poles: the proven, if brutal, efficiency of nets, surveillance by drone and tagged sharks linked to social media; and various trinkets calling ‘emselves shark deterrents. 

The first works, but society don’t have the stomach for seeing photos of sharks being winched, dead or dying, to the surface. 

Surveillance is patchy. It works when the water’s clear and a drone is in the air and if the entire population of Great Whites has been tagged.

Shark deterrents? No.

A new angle works on the premise that as hits on surfers have become the new reality and since there’s only going to be more Great Whites, how about we minimise the impact of a shark bite.

(Kinda like carrying tourniquets.)

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has tossed ninety-gees to researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide toward the development of a Great White-proof wetsuit.

Kevlar was the first choice, and it works, but while it might be ok under your combat uniform it ain’t much fun as a wetsuit.

Instead, the researchers are testing two types of protective fabrics that incorporate ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fibres (UHMWPE)

“We tested the fabric on White sharks because it is the species responsible for the most fatalities from shark bites,” says Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers, co-author a paper that reminds surfers, “Although the risk of being bitten by a shark is intrinsically low, the occurrence of shark bites has increased globally in the last 30 years. For example, the incidence of shark bites in Australia has increased from 1–3 per year in the 1980s to more than 10 per year in the 2010s.”

The results from the test have been fairly encouraging.

It ain’t gonna stop the jaws but it might limit the damage.

Human trials to begin soon.

Volunteers wanted.

Wild as hell: Kelly Slater’s outrageously narrow, parallel-rail seven-six big-wave gun! “It takes guts to make a mad board!”

World champ puts truism that best surfers can ride even a plank of wood to the test…

A few years back, there was a shot circulating of Kelly Slater at Duranbah. He was two-thirds of the way though the sorta cutback one might’ve previously thought impossible, rail buried through the nose, trail left an almost complete circle. 

(Couldn’t find that shot, but how about these frame grabs on the same board.)

More curve, tighter turns. These sorta vert approaches to the lip are very old school but ever so appealing to examine.
Slater's trademark carving three-sixty. A little tighter, looser on the Webber.
Slater’s trademark carving three-sixty. A little tighter, looser on the Webber.

The board was a Greg Webber shaped surfboard he calls Electra and, lately, Webber and Slater have taken to applying the same principles to  bigger waves. 

“He had the idea that is a design that could allow him to do proper turns in big waves and his guess was the amount of grip the design has could correspond nicely to face turns in big waves,” says Greg, who is fiddling with various things at a surfboard factory on the Gold Coast when I call. 

“But instead of altering it to such a degree that it only had a hint of the Electra, mainly a giant gun with a stinger in it, I used the exact file and…stretched…it.”


I’ve just seen the photos of the board on Facebook; Greg ain’t calling me.

He knows the reaction he’s gonna get. 

“In forums you always one or two who say he could ride a door. I adore that one because it’s pure idiocy. What appears to be a truism, that the best can ride anything is misleading because they can make a board that isn’t feeling great look like it’s still ok.”


The dimensions of the gun are a wild 7’6” x 17 7/8” x 2 9/16”, coming in at a little under thirty-five litres. 

When Slater saw the board he told Webber it was too narrow. Said it was “stupid” and that he was going to give it to Shane Dorian’s thirteen-year-old son Jackson. 

“He’s right, of course,” says Webber, who was playing a game where he experiments with zero curve in the planshape and “lots” of rocker, to see what effect the outline curve has on turns. 

But if he didn’t go outrageously narrow, and started at nineteen-inches wide, how would he know the parameters? 

Let me interject. 

You can make a board loose, or easy to turn, a few ways. Little fins. Curvy outline. Ton of rocker. 

Same with speed. Straight outline. Low rocker. 

Sorta same result but they all feel different.

And Webber wanted to take the outline out of the equation.

He also wanted to prove deep concaves, a matter close to his heart, in big waves. 

“It’s not what you want in big waves. You want to shed speed, grip not lift. So it’s then narrowness that I wanted to test. Shortboard style lift in a gun that’s narrow. I wanted to see what that mix would do.”

Webber laughs. 

“It takes guts to make a mad board. And it’s meaningless unless someone is testing it at the highest level in decent size.”

How did it go? Slater was all over a once-in-a-decade swell that lit up the east coast of Australia. 

“He said there’s two really good things. The lack of plan shape made it hard to turn but the ability to get grip mid-face was great. You’ll get to turn with that parallel planshape like a snowboard.” 

Webber describes his relationship with Slater as “funny” and says, “It’s amusing for both of us. He gets pissed off at me but he’s also, ok, ‘I kinda get you.’”

And, before you ask, Webber says there’s no point in him taking about his pools. 

“I’ve crapped on for so many years, most of my shareholders don’t want to hear another word out of my mouth.”

He says the majority owners of his company made a decision to never build a proof-of-concept pool “on some farmland out in the middle of nowhere. They want to do everything in the one go and it’s taking a lot longer.”

He sighs when I ask about the Gold Coast pool called Tunnel Vision and that had government approval to build on a couple of hundred acres between the GC and Brisbane.

Three hundred metre rides, pretty buildings surrounding the tank.

“The land go repurposed for an off-ramp for a highway. That had been in the paperwork for twenty years and I guess they thought it’d never happen. God knows how you could get a DA through.”

Another sigh.